Service-cost tradeoffs for carload freight traffic in the U.S. rail industry

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Railroad technology permits a single train to move a large number of individual freight cars. However, cars which are not in dedicated unit train or intermodal service experience considerable delay due to the consolidation and breakup of trains. Rail operations thus involve a tradeoff between the economies of shipment consolidation, and the resulting delays. More direct and/or more frequent train connections will increase costs, but reduce transit times. This article quantifies the cost of providing a range of transit times for general carload traffic for several representative U.S. rail systems. It shows that significant reductions in transit time will require a large increase in the number of train connections and operating cost. Changes in labor contracts to reduce train crew cost will provide some incentive for higher service levels, but reductions in crew cost alone cannot be expected to dramatically improve the performance of the carload segment of the industry. © 1991.

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Transportation Research Part A: General